Canada Men’s Basketball Looks To Qualify For First Olympics In Over 20 Years

Written By C.J. Pierre on July 20, 2023 - Last Updated on July 21, 2023
R.J. Barrett

Twenty-three years ago, Steve Nash, Michael Meeks and Todd MacCulloch led a feisty Team Canada during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The team went 4-1 in group play and appeared to be destined for a Gold Medal matchup with the US. However, France upset them in the quarterfinals and sent them home medalless.

Team Canada men’s basketball has not set foot on the Olympic stage since then. Over the years, hopes were dashed as talented teams were knocked out during qualifying tournaments. Fast-forward to 2023, and the state of Canada Basketball has never been stronger. Ahead of next month’s 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Canada is fielding arguably its best team ever.

Soon they will have a chance to showcase their talents in front of the entire world. But there are so few chances for the team to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Can this team end a decades-long drought and punch their tickets to the summer games in Paris, France?

Is this the best Canadian men’s basketball team of all time?

When you think about Canadian men’s basketball, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Nash. He holds the senior men’s national team single-game assist record with 15 assists in Canada’s 101-90 victory over Australia in the preliminary round of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. However, there is a large gap between Nash and the next guy.

Team Canada does not have that problem this year. The team’s extended 18-man roster heading into training camp for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is littered with high-level talent that has been proven in the NBA and in college basketball. Teams can ultimately only take 12 players to the World Cup.

Canada men’s national basketball team – 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup extended 18-man roster

  • Kyle Alexander – Milton, ON
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker – Toronto, ON (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • R.J. Barrett (above) – Mississauga, ON (New York Knicks)
  • Trae Bell-Haynes – Toronto, ON
  • Oshae Brissett – Mississauga, ON (Boston Celtics)
  • Dillon Brooks – Mississauga, ON (Houston Rockets)
  • Luguentz Dort – Montreal, QC (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Zach Edey – Toronto, ON (Purdue Boilermakers/2023 NCAA National Player of the Year)
  • Melvin Ejim – Toronto, ON
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Hamilton, ON (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Cory Joseph – Toronto, ON (Golden State Warriors)
  • Jamal Murray – Kitchener, ON (Denver Nuggets)
  • Kelly Olynyk – Kamloops, BC (Utah Jazz)
  • Kevin Pangos – Holland Landing, ON
  • Dwight Powell – Toronto, ON (Dallas Mavericks)
  • Kassius Robertson – Toronto, ON
  • Philip Scrubb – Richmond, BC
  • Thomas Scrubb – Richmond, BC

Key Players on Team Canada

The talent on the Canadian men’s basketball team headed to the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is undeniable. It is expected to be the greatest group of individually skilled players ever assembled to represent the country. There’s an NBA All-Star, an NBA champion and young talents to go along with veterans who bring vast FIBA experience.

This team will go as far as its guards will take them. Jamal Murray of the NBA champion Denver Nuggets will be essential in Canada’s success. There have been questions about his availability for the World Cup because of his extended playoff run and his injury history. However, Murray has expressed to Team Canada his excitement for the opportunity of a deep run at the World Cup. He is an electric scorer with the firepower to keep pace with the competition.

This World Cup could become an opportunity for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to reach superstardom in the eyes of the basketball media. He is coming off his first All-Star season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and could make himself a household name with a good showing. SGA can potentially dominate the action with his high-octane style of play. He is a skilled ball-handler and passer and does a great job getting his teammates involved.

Barrett won’t have to carry the team himself

R.J. Barrett has been on teams that have failed to qualify for the Olympics in the past. However, he shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of the scoring load this time around and will likely play a vital role during the tournament. Dillon Brooks has already earned himself a reputation around the NBA. He is a pesky, in-your-face defender that will get under the skin of the opposing team’s best player.

However, the wildcard on the roster has to be Zach Edey. He was the consensus National Player of the Year in College Basketball for the Purdue Boilermakers in 2023. Towering at 7-foot-4, Edey was the most dominant player in the sport last season, averaging 22.9 points and 12.9 rebounds while shooting 60.7% from the field. International basketball rules are a bit different than NBA, allowing big men to clog the lane to the basket. If given playing time, Edey will have a significant impact on the floor for Team Canada.

Trouble with qualifying for the 2024 Summer Olympics

This Canadian team is good. However, so is the rest of the world. Team USA isn’t the only power in basketball anymore. The Top 4 at the end of the 2019 World Cup were the champions, Spain, followed by Argentina, France and Australia.

Seven teams from the 2023 World Cup will qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics. However, Canada can’t just hop into the Top 7 and secure one of those spots. FIBA will distribute seven Olympic qualifying spots to the best teams from respective continents.

Two of those spots are reserved for teams in FIBA Americas. Here’s the catch, one of those sports will likely go to the US. Although the rest of the world is catching up, Team USA is still the clear favorite. So that means Canada would need to be the second-best team from FIBA Americas.

If, for some reason, this Canadian team falters and cannot secure one of those two spots, they would have one more opportunity. They would have to win one of the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. The field will be made up of other countries that have not already secured a spot in the Olympics.

That’s it. This team will have two chances to qualify for its first Olympics in over 20 years.

Canada 2023 FIBA World Cup Odds

If there is ever going to be a Canadian team to win the FIBA World Cup, this team has the best shot to do it. However, it will not be easy. As mentioned, the US is the clear favorite to win the tournament. But several other talented countries will also be standing in Team Canada’s way. That being said, Canada sports betting sites are high on the Canadian basketball team.

Team/CountryBet365 SportsbookBetRivers SportsbookFanDuel Sportsbook

Odds as of July 19, 2023

The sports betting operators are giving Canada Top 3 best odds to win the FIBA World Cup. USA is filled with NBA stars like Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves), Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic) and Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers). The other top contender is Serbia, which will be without Murray’s Nuggets teammate Nikola Jokić.

The World Cup is scheduled for Aug. 25 to Sept. 10. The group stage will take place in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, with the final stage to follow in the Philippines capital city of Manila. Canada is in Group H and will face France, Lebanon and Latvia in the group phase in Jakarta, Indonesia.

France will be the toughest test for the Canadians. Most sportsbooks have the odds of winning that group very close between the two countries. France is currently ranked 5th in the FIBA world rankings. Meanwhile, Canada is ranked 15th.

The Canadian Men’s National Team will gather in Toronto at OVO Athletic Centre for training camp Aug. 1-6 to begin World Cup preparations before departing for Europe for exhibition games across Germany and Spain.

Photo by Chad Hipolito / AP Photo
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Canada. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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